Philae Temple

At Philae Sound and Light show, pick your ears up to listen as the Egyptian gods and goddesses tell us their stories, resurrecting before our eyes. What would Isis say if she learned that her temple was allowed to sit in the water for many years? –However, she, along with her husband, Osiris, will be happy to be reborn in Philae as new visitors witness its glory every year.


Amelia Edwards, the famous British travel writer, who first visited Philae in 1873, has explained her experience with these captivating words “The approach by water is quite the most beautiful. Seen from the level of a small boat, the island, with its palms, its colonnades, its pylons, seems to rise out of the river like a mirage. Piled rocks frame it on either side of the purple mountains close up the distance. As the boat glides nearer between glistening boulders, those sculptured towers rise higher and even higher against the sky. All looks solid, stately, perfect, one forgets for the moment that anything is changed. If a sound of antique chanting were to be borne along with the quiet air, if a procession of white-robed priests bearing aloft the veiled ark of the God, were to come sweeping round between the palms and pylons, we should not think it strange.”


Like the Pyramids of Giza, Philae has been a popular tourist destination since the 18th and 19th-centuries. What really fascinates its visitors is the high-preserved bright walls and columns. However, Philae was submerged underwater after the High Dam was built and the brightly painted colors of Philae were gone forever. Luckily, a joint project between UNESCO and the Egyptian government rescued Philae from the Nile’s waters. The project occurred over a period of ten years, between 1970 and 1980. First, engineers constructed a large dam around the island of Philae. They then used powerful pumps to remove the water. After a painstaking process, the Philae temple was separated and labeled into 40,000 individual blocks and pieces. The entire temple was moved, piece by piece, to higher ground on another island and put back together like a jigsaw puzzle. The island, where Philae was originally situated is now underwater in the murky depths of Lake Nasser. Although today’s tourists cannot witness all of the original beauty of Philae, the temple itself is in amazing condition. It is easy to see why it was such an important temple for the ancient Egyptians!


The name Philae comes from the ancient Egyptian word “Pilak,” which means “the remote place.” Philae was the southernmost place in Egypt and the last outpost of the 4000-year-old ancient Egyptian religion. During the Greco-Roman period, Philae was a sacred island and an important cult center dedicated to Isis. Isis, her husband Osiris, and their son Horus are the three most important figures in ancient Egyptian mythology. Their story is like one of Shakespeare's tragedies indeed! A small argument between Osiris and his brother Set led to a large battle between the two brothers. Set killed Osiris, cut his body into many pieces, and scattered them all around Egypt. Isis, his wife, searched everywhere until she found all the pieces of her husband’s body. With her magical powers, she brings Osiris back to life and Isis gives birth to Horus.

When Horus grew up and became a man, he avenged his father and killed Set. According to the legend, Philae is the place where Isis found the heart of Osiris and then, buried it in a nearby island. Isis was an important figure in the ancient world because she was the enchantress, who resurrected Osiris and gave birth to their son Horus. She was known as a healer, a giver of life, and the protector of kings. Her legend was not popular at the ancient Egyptians time. However, her cult spread throughout Greece and the Roman Empire, and later, there was even a temple dedicated to her in London.